Peñablanca, Cagayan: Secrets Of Callao Cave
Elementary history taught me that the 47,000-year-old Tabon man of Palawan was the earliest human in the Philippines, but this cave system in a town called Peñablanca told me a different story. It was a discovery which will re-write the history the Filipino people. Let us uncover the wonders beneath the limestone rocks of Peñablanca – welcome to Callao Caves.
Crossing the Pinacanauan River of Penablanca
Limestone rocks were probably the first thing noticed by Spanish conquistadores when they first set foot in town, thus, naming the area Penablanca – peña which translates to a rocky outcrop, and blanca meaning white. No resistance from the natives challenged the invaders so they call the village, callado or Callao, which means quiet or peaceful.
Taking the regular tricycle from Tuguegarao City took me as far as the banks of the serene Pinacanauan River, one of the major tributaries of the Rio Grande de Cagayan. Now the base of Callao Caves is just a 5-minute boat ride across the remarkably clear and glassy waters of the scenic river.
Callao Cave consists of seven chambers whereas each was named after a distinct rock formations seen within the chamber such as the “cream room”, the 4th chamber, named after the rock resembling 3 scoops of ice cream. Five out of 7 chambers have huge overhead openings which allows light to illuminate the area – one of them is called the “sun room”.
The “divine room” got its name from rock formation resembling a figure of the revered mother and child seen on the second chamber. In fact, an altar and a chapel was built under a huge opening in veneration of this hallowed figure by Catholics. The divine room is probably the most iconic of all chambers in Callao.
The “Divine Room”
In 2007, an team of archaeologist led by Armand Salvador Mijares excavated a metatarsal (bones on the feet) on the first chamber, and discovered that, after being dated in France, the remain was 67,000 years old – 20,000 years older than what I taught was the first humans in the country. It was called the “Callao Man“.
There are more than 300 caves in the area, but only 75 are documented. Who knows what lies beneath those 225 unexplored caves. What more secrets remain hindered from modern science. This is what I love in traveling. It educates us beyond the four corners of our classrooms, beyond the limits of designated textbooks. The world is our teacher, and we are her students
Jaime is a criminology student who also works as cave guide to help his parents fund his studies.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. How to go to Callao Caves: Get a tricycle and ask him to take you to the tricycle terminal going to Penablanca (P10.00). From there, the tricycle will wait for 6 more passengers (yes, 7 passengers) before it leaves (P40.00). It took me more almost an hour to reach the bank of Pinacanauan. From there, visitors register and pay an entrance fee, before getting on a boat that will take you across the river (P20.00/ roundtrip). Going back to Tuguegarao City may take even longer.
2. Well, of course, you could always hire a tricycle to get you to Callao and back to Tuguegarao which cost around P600.00 – P700.00. Works for groups.
3. As of this writing, there is no standard rate for cave guides, but donations and tips are gladly welcome.
4. There are established paths which makes exploring easier but it sometimes get slippery during rains.
5. Avoid vandalism.
6. This is my 2nd post on The Road To Palaui series.
7. More destinations in Biyaheng Cagayan
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10. Always be safe and enjoy.